I’m writing this one day after what many Americans consider the most historic election in U.S. history. Elections provide an endless amount of data, and this was no exception. Particularly evident was the use of images to process data and extract trends.
For example, the following combination of graphics from CNN.com shows the difference between the electoral votes in 2004 and 2008 (click for full size):
More after the break…
What is immediately apparent in the map above is two things:
- The large block of red Republican states in 2004.
- And the extent to which Obama and the Democrats broke up the continuity of that block in 2008.
The news was full of stories about red states from 2004 such as Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana being vulnerable to Democratic pressure. What the map shows in an instant, however, is the extent to which that matters. Look at how the blue “grows” from the edges of the country toward the center.
The map also highlights the profound demographic shift occuring in the United States. The rural countryside — Republican territory — is slowly losing its population. Urban areas are growing, adding to the ranks of the Democrats. The nation is also becoming more diverse: whites made up 74% of the electorate this year, down from 77% in 2004 and a high of 90% in 1976 (Washington Post, 11/6/08, p. A34).
These profound changes occur slowly and that’s why we need to be reminded of them. Graphics are one great way to do that.